Reading List: Whodunnit? A Primer

Murder mystery is the favorite genre of so many readers, with countless sub-genres to tickle your fancy — and powers of deduction. This post is meant as a primer of sorts into the realm of murder mystery novels and authors. Can you figure out whodunnit?

All titles are linked to their Goodreads page for more information.

1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


Ten strangers have been invited to a private island off of Devon by an anonymous, eccentric millionaire who is nowhere to be found. It turns out that all the guests have dark secrets that tie them in common, but they are unwilling to reveal. This secrecy has sealed their fate and marked them for death. No one will be left alive by the end of the weekend, and only the dead are beyond suspicion.

2. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

ladies detective

The first in a series, these stories center around Mma Precious Ramotswe, the first female detective in Bostwana. Opening The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency to reflect her accomplishment, Precious specializes in missing husbands, wayward daughters, con men, and imposters. Part of the novel’s plot is based on the murder of Segametsi Mogomotsi in 1994, a ritual killing in Mochudi. Drawing on themes such as national identity and tradition as it meets modern living, Smith also uses the unique fauna of Africa and Botswana as integral parts of the story and living experience.

3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

secret history

A slight change from the title, this isn’t a whodunnit, but a whydunnit. The story is of six closely knit, but academically and socially isolated friends at an elite Vermont college. One member of the group, Richard Papen, reflects on the thoughts and actions that led to murder within their group — how morality slips, and present day can mimic a Greek tragedy.

4. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
(Inspector Lynley #1)


All is not well in Keldale, and Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley has walked into the community — and the middle of their secrets and scandals. Sent to Keldale along with Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been called in to solve a gruesome murder that has shaken the peaceful countryside — a beheaded man and his ax-wielding daughter who’s first and last words were “I did it. And I’m not sorry.”

5. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
(Robert Langdon #2)


Though this is technically the second in the series, Dan Brown’s novels in the Robert Langdon set easily stand alone — “The DaVinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” being fan favorites (“A&D” is set chronologically earlier) — and “The DaVinci Code” has been the novel reaching the highest popularity and interest. Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of night and called to the Louvre. The curator has been murdered, and Langdon is pulled into a maze of hidden codes and clues in the works of Leonardo DaVinci. Will Langdon beat the code before the Priory of Scion? If not, the knowledge at the end of the rabbit hole could be lost forever.

6. A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
(Sherlock Holmes #1)


“A Study in Scarlet” is where it all begins: Ellie Norwood, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Sherlock, Elementary, etcSherlock Holmes has become a household name, and one that intrigues and annoys. This is Conan Doyle’s first story with the super-sleuth, who is called in to investigate the death of a man in Brixton. Holmes’ only clues are a wedding ring, a gold watch, a pocket edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron, and a bloody word scrawled on the wall. This tale also marks the beginning of the famous partnership between Holmes and his counterpart, Dr. John H. Watson.

7. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
(Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #1)

mary russell

An aging beekeeper takes an apprentice, but this apprenticeship is anything but normal. The beekeeper is aging Sherlock Holmes, who has found a match for his mind in 15-year-old, more modern Mary Russell. She becomes his pupil, and together they begin solving small mysteries in the community. But when a shady villain enters the scene, can Russel and Holmes’ partnership survive — and can their powers of deduction stop this criminal?

8. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

rose name

This tale is set in 1327, where the Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy. Given a delicate mission, Brother William of Baskerville finds his investigation eclipsed by seven strange deaths and assumes the role of detective. Using Aristotle’s logic, Aquinas’ theology, and Bacon’s empirical insight paired with his own curiosity, Brother William begins to dig, decipher, and deduce.

9. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
(Philip Marlowe #1)

the big sleep

In this 1920s-style hardboiled crime fiction novel, Philip Marlow has been hired by a dying millionaire. Why? Someone is blackmailing one of two troublesome daughters, and Marlowe quickly finds out that this is about more than money.

10. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
(C. Auguste Dupin #1)

rue morgue

This short story takes place in Paris, when C. Auguste Dupin is called in to investigate the horrific murder of two women. However, all witnesses heard the suspect speak in a different language, there is a suspicious non-human hair at the crime scene, and the investigation takes an unexpected turn. Poe’s Dupin is credited as the first  true detective in fiction, and serves as inspiration for his contemporaries Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

Do you have a favorite murder mystery book or author? Share it with us in the comments! And as always, happy reading!

Reading List: Human-Engineered Utopia OR Dystopian Nightmare?

Dystopian stories are all the rage right now, and have been for the past couple of years… Many have hit the theatres recently — Mad Max: Fury Road, Insurgent (The Divergent Series), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Giver (Meryl!), Mockingjay (The Hunger Games), Ender’s Game, The Purge, Oblivion… The list continues.

Many of these audience favorites have been adapted — or at least inspired — by books! This summer, check out one of these dystopian novels and escape the world as we know it for a while:

1. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde
shades of greyPart social satire, part romance, and part revolutionary thriller — a tale overcoming all odds in a caste system based solely on the colors you are able to see and a bizarre rule system. Eddie Russet of the House of Red takes us along for an unpredictable journey of discovery.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwoodhandmaid's tale

Birth rates are declining and Offred is a Handmaid, meaning she is expected to help repopulate the Republic of Gilead. Women are banned from reading, confined to their homes, and existing families have been torn apart — But Offred can’t be held down by this oppressive structure.

3. Brave New World by Alduous Huxleybrave new world

Huxley’s “Brave New World” is held as his greatest masterpiece, where far in the future World Controllers have created a utopia with the help of recreational sex and drugs. However, Bernard Marx feels like something is missing, and visits one of the few remaining Savage Reservations to see if he can find the answer for his discontent and distress.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
never let me go

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy have been best friends since boarding school where they were constantly reminded how “special” they were. It isn’t until later in life when they find out what “special” truly means.

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthythe road

America has burned, and the people that this father and son meet on the road to the coast are about as nice as the ravages, ashy landscape that surrounds them. Will they be able to survive the journey with just the clothes on their backs, a single pistol, a cart of scavenged food, and each other?

6. When She Woke by Hillary Jordanwhen she woke

All Hannah Payne has known of life has been church and family, but a murder conviction changes her world forever. Physically altered to have visibly red skin in accordance with her crime, Hannah is guilty of murdering her unborn child — but refuses to reveal the father. A powerful re-imagining of The Scarlet Letter, this is the story of a stigmatized woman trying to navigate the not-too-distant state of America that politicizes faith and love to an extreme.

7. California by Edan Lepuckicalifornia

Cal and Frida have left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them, living in an isolated wilderness shack and trying to survive the new world. After discovering Frida’s pregnancy, the couple heads to the nearest settlement for help and support — only to find that the people in this new world pose their own kind of dangers.

8.  A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egangood squad

Aging punk-rocker Bennie is now a record exec who employs Sasha, a troubled young musician. Weaving music into every page, Egan skillfully unfolds their pasts and all the other people they’ve met along the way.

9. Lock In by John Scalzilock in

Fifteen years from now, an epidemic sweeps the globe — most only experience fever and headaches, while a small percentage experiences acute meningitis. But 1% of the population is “locked in:” fully awake and aware, but unable to respond to the world around them in any way. In America alone, that accounts for 1.7 million people, including the President’s wife and daughter. Prompted by grief, a huge scientific initiative begins to find answers for those “locked in,” but does it really help at all?

10. The YA Trifecta: The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner

hunger games

Katniss Everdeen is fighting for her life in the Panem Annual “Hunger Games” as entertainment for the wealthy who live in the Capitol — but also as a reminder that the Capitol has the power to silence any dissenters. Two representatives from each of the twelve Districts – one boy and one girl, both under the age of 18 – compete each year to the death. Can one girls actions of both selflessness and self-preservation spark a revolution?

divergentBeatrice “Tris” Prior lives in a far-future Chicago, segregated by factions that represent different virtues: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). One day each year, every 16-year-old must decide if they want to stay with their family’s faction or if they want to transfer, severing all ties and connections with the community that raised them. Will Tris decide to stay with her family, or be true to her nature? Tris also has a secret, and if anyone finds out, she could be killed — or unravel the very workings of her whole society.

maze runner

Thomas wakes up in a cold, metal box that’s slowly rising and no memory of how he got there. He arrives in the Glade, filled with other boys who have no memory of life before The Box. Outside the Glade is a towering maze — that changes every day and is also their only way out. But then a girl arrives, the first girl ever. And everything changes.

Have a favorite dystopian novel to add to the list? Leave it in the comments below — Happy reading!

Reading List: Ridiculous Romance

So, I am not going to deny that there is a large market for romance novels* — and I’m all for them, especially if they’re getting people reading! Hopefully they are portrayals of healthy relationships, but as we know, that’s not always the case. However, in addition to your beach reads and long tomes to be conquered over the second half of the summer, here’s some ridiculous romance novels** that are good for a laugh or dramatic reading among friends (all are linked to Goodreads!):

1. My Highland Lover by Maeve Greysonhighland lover

Ah yes. This is an entire genre: time-traveling Scottish Highland romance novels. Take from it what you will. My Highland Lover has just that – A Highland Lover. A Kentucky small-business owner named Trulie is secretly from thirteenth century Scotland – and when called home, she goes. She travels straight back into the arms of Gray of the Clan McKenna, a chiseled, sensual man out for revenge for the death of his parents. Will their love be as timeless as the journey Trulie took to find Gray?

2. The Heir and the Spare by Maya Rodaleheir spare

Twin princes – one deadbeat, the other overlooked – are vying for exceptionally clumsy Emilia’s heart — but who will win? Bonus: the first meeting is at a ball in London. I haven’t read this, but I’m sensing a Mia Thermopolis vibe from the main character, as well as a more modern setting than many romance novels.

3. Fearless (Scarlet Sufragette #1) by Nicola Clairefearless

Historical romance novels are a staple… Because it’s fun to think of these relationships and petticoats through the lens of current women’s rights and autonomy (which is still not fulfilled, but great strides have been made!).  Heroine Anna Cassidy has trained her whole life to be a surgeon by the best: the former Chief Surgeon of the Auckland Police Force – but apparently society is not ready to think about a female surgeon. But as she fights for her rights, she finds that she and her fellow Suffragettes are being stalked and murdered. Get ready for a romance of Ripper proportions!

4. In The Air Tonight by Lori Handelandair tonight

Paranormal romance. Another standard in the romance genre. But this one has witches! Detectives! And again, ties to Scotland because that is apparently the land that romance comes from — move over Italy & Paris. The main character, Raye, has a secret past and the ability to see dead people, as well as fall in love with the detective who needs her abilities.

5. Howdy, Ma’am by Mary J. McCoy-Dresselhowdy maam

This would not be a complete list without a Western Romance (which barely beat out a post for Soldier Romance and Knight Romance).  A bull rider wants to start truly living again – so he hires a sexy photographer to travel the circuit with him. Little does he know that she’s decided to start a new life – alone. But when passion sparks, will they grab it by the horns?

*P.S. Many romance novels contain rather explicit content, so this list is recommended for adults. Also, so much Scotland.

**I am only calling these ridiculous due to the fact that they are often far-fetched and impossibly unreal. Very few people have anything remotely like this happen to them, even if they are fun to read and a great escape. (But also a few of these are certifiable ridiculous because they are just not well written…)

Also, just a fun reminder: Fifty Shades of Grey was originally put into the universe as an online Twilight fan-fiction. Also, please don’t let this novel inform your views on the BDSM community because the book is so incredibly and beyond wrong. Happy reading!

Have a favorite romance novel you want other patrons to know about? Feel free to leave it in the comments!


It’s here! The long awaited sequel to Harper Lee’s classic, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” is here! Come to Gaylord Memorial Library to check out “Go Set A Watchman.” 

harper lee

“Go Set A Watchman” is set twenty years after the events of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” 26-year-old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. But returning home also returns countless memories and disturbing truths about those closest to her — as well as makes Scout question her values and assumptions.

This work was originally written by Lee in the mid-1950s, but was not published until this year. It is a must-read and essential companion to Lee’s first novel.

Unfortunately, we cannot give you a review at this time, as the copy just arrived and we wanted it to be available for patrons post haste! And if it’s been a while, it’s definitely a good time to re-read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Happy reading!